With every wireless device company now trying to compete with Apple’s iPhone, Ontario, Canada-based Research in Motion (RIM) has decided to go another route by simply doing what it does best—sticking to its tried and true Blackberry platform. The long anticipated Blackberry Bold, exclusively from AT&T Wireless, is the latest in the evolution of the business-minded smartphone, and can be described in a few short words: Bigger, faster and stronger. While the Bold was originally slated to drop this summer, and is only just now arriving, the good news is that Blackberry lovers and newcomers alike will find that the 3G device was well worth the wait.
Features and Design
The Bold’s body, which is a little over a half an inch thick and weighs less than five ounces, is reminiscent of the Blackberry Curve 8320. However, with its elegantly black exterior, satin chrome finish and leatherette-bound back, the device is clearly a luxurious upgrade from its predecessors. The vivid 2.75-inch half-VGA resolution 480×320 pixel color display is also a noted upgrade, as it showcases both photos and videos brilliantly. Below the screen can be found the signature Blackberry trackball as well as start, current menu, previous screen and stop buttons.
The Bold’s lower half is equally impressive. The improved QWERTY keyboard, which is backlit for use with those late-night emails or text messages, features raised keys that afford the ability to type without looking at the pad. (As long as you’re familiar with standard keyboard layouts, that is…) Like recent Blackberry models, the device also features two volume keys and a camera quick key on the right and a headphone jack and sync/charge jack/mini USB on the left. However, the camera quick key can sometimes be an annoyance as it can cause you to unintentionally take way too many photos of the inside of your pocket or the sidewalk.
The BlackBerry Bold also includes 128 MB Flash memory plus 1 GB of on-board storage memory, as well as a microSD/SDHC memory card slot that is conveniently accessible from a side door.
Setup and Use
As is standard with all Blackberry devices, the Bold is sold with a USB cable, a carrying case and a wall charger. It also includes an installation disc of Blackberry hotsync software.
If you’re an experienced Blackberry user, setting up and using the Bold will be like riding a bike. The bottom of the main screen features six main icons (messages, address book, calendar, browser, GPS navigation and media). To delve deeper into the Bold, one need simply tap the menu button to pull up the full array of applications. With the beefier built-in GPS capabilities and Blackberry Maps, users can get turn-by-turn directions at the simple click of a button as well.
Among other key features is connectivity with 802.11a/b/g WiFi networks for speedy Internet surfing. Using the RIM® wireless modem, the Bold enables you to use the gizmo, when network coverage is available, to connect any number of AT&T hot spots too. In terms of additional options, the device further offers tethered modem capability.
Another highlight here is the vastly improved Word-compatible document creator WordToGo and fellow productivity booster SlideshowToGo. Together, these programs allow you to craft, edit and review Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint slides from the device, respectively. While WordToGo makes editing or finishing a review like this a breeze, keep the following in mind. It would be hard to imagine someone crafting a full-fledged PowerPoint presentation on a screen of this size, no matter how brilliant the included software is.
Despite many of these natty upgrades though, you still only get a 2 megapixel camera here, which may be a disappointment for some. However, the device’s video camera recording features more than make up for such caveats.
Image Courtesy of Research in Motion
The Bold has been touted as the fastest Blackberry to date. Running on the 3G network and a 624-MHz processor, the device allowed us to easily jump from web browser to incoming messages and then to a phone call without skipping a beat. In fact, the phone was so fast that you sometimes need to slow down what you’re doing to avoid mistakes. Mind you, we tested the device in a major metropolitan area – performance may vary by location.
Multimedia playback is definitely a core feature of the new Bold. Media Sync options allow you to transfer your iTunes music files to your smartphone with ease. And while you may not be able to access YouTube from the Bold, AT&T does offer its own Cellular Video (CV) service. With 3G connectivity, you can enjoy featured content from CNN, The Weather Channel, iFilm, Comedy Central as well as exclusive premium content from HBO. You can also dial up AT&T Mobile Music on-demand, access Napster and eMusic subscription music services, stream music video, and even get the proper titles of your favorite new songs on the radio via the handset’s Music ID song-recognition feature. The sound quality of the speakerphone is like nothing you have ever heard before from a mobile handset as well.
The Blackberry Bold 9000 retails for $549.99 USD, which is admittedly quite a lot. However, with a new 2-year contract you can purchase one for $399.99 with a $100 mail-in rebate, making it just $299.99. Not only is it a bargain given the quality of the phone, but a price reasonably comparable to that of the iPhone and other high-end smartphone devices.
In the end, various minor shortcomings aside, the Blackberry Bold is by far the sweetest smartphone RIM has created. If you’re hooked on so-called “crackberries” or just want to upgrade to a mobile phone that offers the best of best worlds (think boardroom meets bad ass), hey… Congratulations – you’ve finally met your match.
• Sleek design
• Speedy 3G network
• Easy to use WordToGo app
• Robust media offerings
• Clunky web browser
• Average photo quality
• High price tag
• Various minor design quirks